Identifying the ideal location to establish a new manufacturing base or set up a regional office is no easy task.
In a country as vast and an economy as competitive as the US, whittling down the wealth of potential sites to just one means that an ever-growing variety of factors must be met: there must be close access to key markets; accessibility and transport infrastructure to service those beyond; a ready supply of staff; and the availability of education and training to enable future growth.
All these factors must also be available at an achievable cost and with manageable levels of taxation and regulation to ensure that those searching for the site will get a sufficient return on their investment.
Traditionally, this has resulted in companies and the site selection consultancies that they employ focusing largely on major urban centers and manufacturing heartlands in search of suitable locations.
But more recently, companies have been looking further afield to identify new areas undergoing economic expansion that, rather than being at the center of one opportunity market, lie instead at the intersection of multiple.
Texarkana, which is located across the states of Texas and Arkansas and is within a 300-mile drive of Houston, Memphis and six other major cities, is a region that is capitalizing on this new way of thinking.
Punching above its weight
The Twin City – which, between an hour’s drive from Texarkana, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas, draws on a population of approximately 1 million – possesses a number of factors that enables it to punch above its weight in terms of its attractiveness as an area for site selection.
With an existing reliable and dedicated workforce – evidenced by the fact that its employee turnover rate is 33% lower than the national average – and a strong education and training base to provide continued supply, it has the skills required for a new operation looking to grow.
It is also in the rare position of being able to draw on the support and resources of the state governments and bodies of both Texas and Arkansas, enabling those who move to it to gain a foothold in the world’s eighth largest economy and a major manufacturing center respectively.
Furthermore, its proximity to Mexico places it at the heart of the new economic corridor created by the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that has seen trade between the two countries more than triple since it was signed in 1994.
But beyond these fundamental strengths, Texarkana has also maximized its attractiveness within the realm of site selection through the dynamic approach that its development agency AR-TX Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) has taken towards driving economic development.
Led by president and CEO Rob Sitterley, who previously headed up the Enterprise Florida Business Development team before working in the private sector, the non-profit regional development agency has taken an “all-in” attitude to making the most of the area’s opportunities.
This approach has seen it invest directly in the region’s development with its purchase of more than 1,350 acres of land within Arkansas in partnership with the local authorities, to be transformed into the Arkansas Manufacturing Center. In Texas, REDI acquired an 850-acre tract of industrial land with the help of its partners and named it the East Texas Logistics Center. Pair both sites with TexAmerica’s thousands of available acres and a company has unlimited options to best suit their needs.
By acquiring the land and working to make it ‘shovel-ready’, this enabled AR-TX REDI to drastically reduce the risk presented to potential investors by managing the processes of site certification in-house, meaning it could then act as a one-stop shop to those looking to relocate.
This more hands-on approach is coming under increasing demand in the current climate as competition to secure locations to enable growth continues to increase across the US.
Serious about economic development
“Good, ready to go sites are getting harder and harder to come by these days,” explains Sarah S. White, principal and vice president of site selection at Global Location Strategies. “Projects’ development timelines are tightening even more with the market demand, so putting in work to control and prepare properties will pay off in the long run.”
For White, who had previously worked with Sitterley during his time in Florida on relocating the global headquarters of car rental giant Hertz and establishing the manufacturing base for the Northrop Grumman drone project, this is evidence of the ambition and promise of AR-TX REDI. “Being proactive on the product development shows that Texarkana is serious about economic development.”
Having recently visited the region, White was also pleasantly surprised to see that a place of its size has a medical school, a four-year public university and two community colleges, representing an educational pipeline that far outweighs what a place of its size would usually have.
In addition to the Arkansas Manufacturing Center and the East Texas Logistics Center, AR-TX REDI has taken the same attitude to promoting and attracting investment in the established sites, such as the Maxwell Industrial Park, Favley Industrial Park and TexAmericas Center.
With the supply of both types of development spread between either side of the border, this means that potential investors can benefit from the competition among the states to attract their business but also from the workforces and resources each has to offer.
“One of the things that I think is fascinating is that you have products in two different states, so you have an opportunity to work with leadership in both,” says Gray Swoope, president and CEO of VisionFirst Advisors. “The Arkansas people are going to want the site in Arkansas and the Texas folks are going to want Texas to be the winner.”
“But at the end of the day, once there’s a location and there are employees from both states, you’ll have the support and the benefits of both.”
To learn more about the opportunities available in Texarkana, download the whitepaper.